Not a whole lot of news on the TRMPAC indictment front today, but the Chron comes through with a front-page story that disputes the statements by Tom Craddick and Tom DeLay which claim their involvement with TRMPAC was tangential at most. The story is based on a review of documents related to the case.
Most of the documents come from a civil lawsuit filed by some Democrats who lost to Republicans funded by TRMPAC. Other documents come from IRS filings and federal investigations of Enron Corp. and Westar Energy Inc.
Colyandro testified in the civil lawsuit that he and Kevin Brannon, TRMPAC political consultant, spoke frequently to Craddick on the phone and in his office to discuss House races. He said Craddick also attended at least one TRMPAC fund-raiser.
"He was probably the most active and engaged member of the Texas House in terms of electoral politics on the House side," Colyandro testified. "So he would have been an excellent resource for, for information."
Phone records show Brannon called Craddick 32 times in the weeks before the 2002 election and another 60 times in the weeks after.
Colyandro, by e-mail in October 2002, had the TRMPAC accountant cut $152,000 in checks for 14 Republican House candidates and send the checks by FedEx to Craddick's Midland office. Craddick's aides distributed the checks.
An executive for Mariner Health Care Inc. delivered to Craddick in October 2002 a $100,000 check from The Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care made out to TRMPAC. Craddick, who passed the check along, said this week he did not know what was in the envelope. The alliance is one of the corporations under indictment.
And the Nov. 7, 2002, news conference for Craddick to claim he had the votes to become speaker was announced by Colyandro on letterhead paid for by TRMPAC.
Ellis, the executive director of ARMPAC, set up TRMPAC at DeLay's direction to help win control of the Legislature. Ellis also had personal ties to Colyandro. (ed. note: according to this story, "Ellis' late wife was Colyandro's cousin".)
DeLay's daughter, Dani DeLay Ferro, was a paid consultant for ARMPAC and TRMPAC, setting up fund-raising events.
RoBold had been DeLay's fund-raiser for several years.
E-mail disclosed in the investigation of Enron showed that RoBold, on behalf of DeLay, in 2000 directed Enron contributions to the Texas Republican Party. RoBold was the ARMPAC fund-raiser before also going to work for TRMPAC.
While raising money for TRMPAC, RoBold kept his office in the offices of DeLay's ARMPAC, according to testimony by Colyandro.
Colyandro testified in a civil lawsuit that RoBold was assigned to raise $600,000 in corporate cash in Washington for TRMPAC. Almost all the controversial corporate money came from RoBold events, most of which featured DeLay as the honored guest.
A fund-raising brochure created by RoBold said corporate donations would be used to help candidates:
"Unlike other organizations, your corporate contribution to TRMPAC will be put to productive use. Rather than just paying for overhead, your support will fund a series of productive and innovative activities designed to increase our level of engagement in the political arena."
The same brochure contained a direct solicitation for donations from DeLay and put him at the top of the list of advisory board members.
Letters and e-mail show at least some donors believed they were giving money to a DeLay committee. A June 2002 letter accompanying a donation of $25,000 for TRMPAC from The Williams Companies Inc. was addressed to "Congressman DeLay." The company was one of the corporations indicted by the grand jury.
Internal e-mail from another of the indicted companies — Westar Energy Inc. of Kansas — had one executive asking why the company was making donations to Texas legislative races. The reply cited DeLay's position in the House.
DeLay's position on the advisory board of TRMPAC also gave him an opportunity to know what was happening at the committee.
Colyandro testified in a civil lawsuit that DeLay participated in "one or two conference calls" after TRMPAC had its launch to discuss "the general direction of the organization, what our objectives would be and what we hoped to accomplish."
When asked whether advisory board members, including DeLay, were aware of how money was being raised, Colyandro said: "They certainly had an awareness, particularly because they participated in certain — some of those events."
Colyandro said he also sent routine updates to advisory board members.
A Jan. 12, 2002, e-mail message from DeLay Ferro to TRMPAC Texas fund-raiser Susan Lilly asked for name tags for an event in Austin to include Ellis, ARMPAC staffer Mike Murphy and fund-raiser RoBold.
"They are some of our staff from Washington that will be in town for the event," DeLay Ferro wrote. A flier for that fund-raiser featuring Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris listed the "TRMPAC Board" as being headed by DeLay. "Corporate Contributions are Welcome."
As for the current cases, look for trials next year sometime.
"My speculation is that the pretrial issues would not be resolved until sometime in the spring, with the possibility of a trial sometime in the summer or fall of next year," said Wayne Meissner, an Austin lawyer representing defendant Warren Robold of Maryland.
A number of factors could affect the timing of the case:
•The investigation of corporate money in the 2002 races will continue next month with a new grand jury — the fourth to consider the case. Further indictments could push back a trial date on the first indictments.
•During their 2005 session, legislators will decide on a two-year budget for the Public Integrity Unit of Earle's office. Lawmakers who are unhappy with the indictments may revive an effort to move the unit to the state attorney general's office. A leading Democrat, meanwhile, has called on the Legislative Budget Board to consider giving the unit more money.
Earle is a Democrat, and some Republicans say the indictments are politically motivated.
Changes to state election laws made during the 2005 session would not protect the defendants from prosecution, [Gregg Cox, who is leading the investigation for Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle] said.
•Lawyers for the defendants could file motions to quash the indictments if they think there's not enough information in them to prepare a defense. J.D. Pauerstein, Ellis' lawyer, said such an effort "is certainly a possibility."
"We really haven't fleshed out any strategy at this juncture," he said.
•Not all of the defendants will be tried together because they are accused of different crimes. But some who are accused of the same crimes, such as Colyandro and Ellis, could be tried together. Lawyers could appeal decisions about which defendants will be tried together, and those appeals could delay the case as well.
A legislator who made what he called a humorous plea for campaign cash while addressing an advocacy group in a state office building says he'll turn away money from anyone responding to the pitch.
Rep. Jack Stick of Austin, a first-term Republican, said he did no wrong, but "I do not want anybody to think I have even come close to an ethical line."
State law forbids making or authorizing contributions to state officeholders or candidates in the Capitol, but it does not mention requests in other state facilities.
Stick spoke Wednesday to the Texas Committee on Insurance Fraud, a group created by the insurance industry to devise legislation for the 2005 Legislature.
The panel met for the third time this year in a hearing room offered by the Texas Department of Insurance.
Stick, described by panel spokesman Mark Hanna as a "workhorse" on committee matters, was answering questions on insurance topics when he said he expected his current campaign to cost more than his 2001 race.
"We will always accept monetary assistance or monetary assistance and if you can't do that, we can take monetary assistance," Stick said, according to an observer who took notes. "We also take checks or credit cards."
Stick, disputing the observer, said he said "financial" help.